If ahouse in my neighborhood is abandoned, what is the state law regarding squatters rights?

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If ahouse in my neighborhood is abandoned, what is the state law regarding squatters rights?

How diligent must I be in finding the legal owner? How long would I have to live there/care for the property before it was legally mine?

Asked on October 28, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unlike in many European countries, there are NO squatter's rights in the United States--just because a property is abandoned does not mean someone else can even live in it, let alone claim ownership.

There is something called "adverse possession." Under adverse possession, if you openly and notoriously claim ownership over property--i.e not merely sureptitiously live there, but make it clear to the whole world that you are claiming it as your own--and also reside there for a period of 10 years without any interruption, you might be able to claim ownership by adverse possession. At any point during that period, the owner could evict you and you would have no rights at all; and owner in this case would include a bank, investor, developer, or the government taking the property by means of foreclosure.


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